ALBANY, Ga. — Beset with a number of issues that have placed the county's usually staid library system at the forefront of recent news cycles, the system faced another potentially difficult blow recently when interim Library Director Mary Antoine announced her intent to leave the system and return to Atlanta.
But Board Chairman Walter Kelley put in a call to an old friend — and a familiar face among patrons of the library system — and as suddenly as it had arisen, the issue faded. And Mike Duggan, whose 18 years of experience with the local system made him a logical choice to take the position, hit the ground running as interim director.
"I was talking to (Lee County Library Director) Claire Leavy and told her our system needed help," Kelley said. "She mentioned one other person who would be a good choice as interim director and then said, 'You know Mike Duggan is still right there in Albany.' I called the first person she mentioned, and he was already serving as interim director (of a system in north Georgia), but he also said, 'Mike Duggan is right there, and he would be excellent.'
"I've known Mike a long time, so I called him and told him we needed his help. He said he'd think about the situation, and after a while he called and said he could come back and work for a limited number of hours a week. So he'll step back into the director's position and allow the board to take the time to find the right person to fill the position permanently."
Duggan's 33 years of library science work included 18 as director of the local system. He'll take over a system that recently closed two of its five branches, had two of its board members resign partially because of actions by the Dougherty County Commission and has drawn criticism for failure to award a contract for $5 million in special tax funds earmarked for improvements to its downtown Central branch.
There are also ongoing monetary issues.
"Our insurance just went up $30,000, the state cut its funding by 3 percent and there's no additional funding coming in from the county," Kelley said. "Still, I know the people on the Library Board are going to do everything they can to keep the system a fabulous benefit to the community."
Kelley said the board had received 21 applications for the vacant director's position, six of which did not meet requirements. Once the board has established procedures for reviewing the applications, Kelley said, it will start taking a close look at the applicants.
"We've got to have somebody who can bring the goods to the table," he said. "If the right person is not in this group, with Mike on board now we can readvertise until we find that right person."
Kelley said the Library Board has also filed paperwork to create a 501(c)(3) nonprofit Friends of the Library group to help generate community support for the system.